Mountain Valley Pipeline: ‘The Fight Will Go On’
This story is reposted from Appalachians Against Pipelines, with permission.
“The fire that is burning cannot be so easily put out. The fight will go on”. A friend said these words shortly before being taken away from Yellow Finch by agents of the state and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). As we mourn for the space that was lost and the friends who will be in the hands of the enemy for the near future, it’s worth thinking about what we can carry forward from the nine hundred and thirty-two days of the Yellow Finch blockade.
For two and a half years, pipeline construction was blocked on one side of the hollow that is split by Yellow Finch Lane. On one side of the road the trees lay on their sides in piles of exposed earth held down with tarps. When it was rainy you could watch the hillside erode in real time and run down into the stream. On the other side of the road, a community of resistance blossomed beneath the shade of standing trees.
Yellow Finch was a place where a huge variety of people-named, pseudonymous, and anonymous-lived in the canopy and on the ground blocking work on the pipeline. But it was also a place where a much larger community assembled to fight back against the systems that enabled the pipeline in a wide variety of ways. Folks from all walks of life came together there, including those who had been pushed to the margins because of how they looked, how they identified, where they were raised, or because they were being too damn ornery to fit into society. This made Yellow Finch a space that not only celebrated differences but sought to use those differences as a source of strength in resistance.
Yellow Finch was a place where people learned new skills and ideas: how to climb a tree, how to plan a direct action, how to support friends in jail. But as people from Yellow Finch said on the one-year anniversary of the sits, “This year has made clear that our power lies not in the supposed ‘sacrifices’ of a few, and not in so-called ‘activists’ with highly specialized skill sets, but rather in the collective resiliency of a community that has come together to fight this pipeline.”
By coming together in struggle people found that their already existing talents in potato frying, water hauling, brick stacking, listening to each other and working together were essential to the blockade and the community. People came, for years, months, or a weekend, and left a little bit of themselves in a space they were encouraged to autonomously build, improve and maintain. In a space without bosses, cops, or bedtimes people carved out an egalitarian approach to work, play, and the many little rituals that defined days that felt like they might never end. All of this work and community building is crucial to fostering movements that confront capital and the state, whether in the woods or in the streets.
Even though the blockade is gone, none of this energy was wasted. The tree sits were not designed to be a permanent institution. We gained so much from this space as individuals and as a community of resistance. The only way to honor its legacy is to use those gains to fight this battle with a renewed vigor.
It’s easy to feel like the extraction of Acre and Robin [tree sitters now in jail] and the destruction of the trees at Yellow Finch is the end of the road. But years ago the extraction of Nutty and the sits on Peters Mountain felt like an ending. Now, the Peters Mountain blockades were so long ago it feels like another lifetime, but the pipeline is still far from finished.
Extractive industry and environmental destruction have been part of the story of so-called North America since the beginning of colonization, but so has resistance to these forces. Blockading work at Yellow Finch road was one tactic in one campaign in one frontline struggle against colonization, hierarchy, and oppression.
The campaign against the Mountain Valley Pipeline will continue and will bring with it new sits, new blockades, and new creative acts of resistance. The broader struggle will continue for the duration of our lives and will bring new spaces, new campaigns, new moments of mass uprising and refusal.
The forces of law and order have captured our friends for the moment, but they have failed to convince us that they were wrong to fight back. The premise of the “criminal justice” system is that judges, jailers, politicians and CEOs have the ability to determine right from wrong, and the standing to pass judgment on those who don’t follow their rules. Yellow Finch was, from the first day, in breach of these rules. It existed because people had the temerity to stand up to corporate power and stand in the way of the business as usual.
The people who built and maintained Yellow Finch believed that the right of people to live in a healthy environment, to breath clean air and drink clean water on a livable planet was more important than the rights of MVP to do whatever it wished for a dollar. As Acre repeatedly quoted Willen Van Spronsen, “there’s wrong and there’s right.” The state and its coercion won’t convince us otherwise. As we mourn our lost space and our absent friends, we haven’t lost the commitment to do the right thing that empowered them.
So we’re going to keep fighting and keep building and keep figuring out how to resolve our problems together. If you’re reading this alone and are bummed out, come join us. It’s a lot easier to do these things together.”
Reflections from a friend on the years of Yellow Finch
Donate to support Acre, Wren and the ongoing resistance to the Mountain Valley Pipeline: bit.ly/SupportMVPResistance
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